The Future is Here

Photo by Pongsak Kitirojpan

“The future has arrived — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” (William Gibson)  I thought of this quote when I saw what is happening with the war in Ukraine and Putin using natural gas against European support of Ukraine.  Russia has been fighting the war with old 20th century thinking. (They are slowly learning.)  My perspective says change is happening but it is not always seen, because change first happens in select groups and early adopters. 

Let me explain why I think the Russian leadership is behind the times.

The Ukraine war started with a massive show of overwhelming force, but the Russians moved in slowly and had logistic problems.  The Ukrainian army was able to stop the Russians, and it was small drones and commercial satellites that were able to inform the Ukrainians of the Russian movements. Because of the information, the Ukrainians were able to stop the Russian advance by making targeted attacks.  Today drones and satellites are important information sources in a variety of circumstances.

Recently, the Russian army with Iranian technical support is now using “kamikaze” Iranian drones to deliver explosive payloads.  In the past, I would think of planes dropping bombs and missiles being fired.  The Russians have done that but that is old school.  Remotely piloting drones to targets is the latest method.  Drones can play a major role in warfare whether it be shooting at targets or blowing them up.

And Putin is attempting to punish Europe by withholding natural gas.  That will cause pain, but it is nowhere near the pain as it would have 5-10 years ago.  Renewable energy, wind and solar, will and can carry a major load this winter.  Europe has lessened the pain with renewable energy resources, as well as importing natural gas from other sources. In fact, right now Europe has an oversupply of natural gas due to warm temperatures and increased shipping of liquid natural gas to Europe from other sources. 

Russians are thinking that the world has a petroleum based economy and they are still right, but the world is changing to an electricity based economy, so the impact of their withholding natural gas is less than it would have been.  I believe that we are headed to an electricity based economy and we are moving away from a petroleum based economy.  Why?  Because battery technology has been improving a lot.  Remember when garden tools were gas powered with few electric tools that required an extension cord.  Now everything is battery powered. When I look at all the devices I have that are battery powered, I am amazed.  I count 5  battery powered devices that I use at least once a day, and there are many more battery powered devices in the house. 

There are also the dropping prices of wind and solar energy.  DOE in a report for 2021 (before the recent hike in gas prices) says that solar is competitive with “the cost of burning fuel in existing gas-fired generators.”  So it may be cheaper to build a solar farm instead of paying for natural gas for an existing gas-fired generator.  From a purely economic perspective, solar and wind are well on their way to become the cheapest option.  The future can be seen in the trends.  The future is here now, but it will take awhile before the future is realized everywhere.

The “future is here” has shown up in other places.  I think of the company O’Reilly Media whose “mission is to change the world by sharing the knowledge of innovators.”  They  track trends by watching “the alpha geeks”.  Alpha geeks adopt or innovate the technological future, and by watching them you can get an idea of what the future may look like.  The company has been at the forefront of many tech trends because of it.

A philosophical cultural trend today is this focus on looking inside oneself to find the authentic you.  Back in the 1980’s my wife, Gail, was at a “Christian” retreat center where participants were encouraged to “Be still and know”.  Back then she felt it was odd that they did not include the rest of the verse in the instructions and to her the whole exercise seemed like an exercise in futility.  That Bible passage starts with “Be still, and know that I am God …” (Psalms 46:10).  Today, finding yourself by looking inside at your feelings is very popular, but back then it was found only with the early adopters.  And those four words, “be still and know” are still being misused to promote finding yourself without God.  The future took a while to spread from the early adopters, and yet this trend took me by surprise.

What does the future hold? I do not know, but I can make some guesses based on what I see happening now.  Not everything happening now will be in the future but some of it will be.  Besides an electricity based economy, I have some other guesses. Government will go much more online. Estonia is creating a digital society by embracing the internet for its citizens as the way for the government to interact with its citizens.  Web3 and blockchain technology appear to be in the future, but I think it might look different than it does today.  And today the West is post-Christian and I see Christian missionaries coming from the Third World to evangelize us here. 

“The future has arrived — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

American Caste

When I think of a caste system, I think of India. Though it has been outlawed in India since independence, it is still very much alive.  Much of the time today you know by the surname of the person who is of higher caste and who should be subordinate. “Caste is the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.” A caste system has several principles or characteristics that define it.  There is a belief that the inequality is divinely or naturally ordained.  You inherit your inferior status from your parents. This means that it is wrong for people of two different castes to marry. Your caste status decides what job you can do.  There are fears of an upper caste being polluted by a lower inferior caste.  The upper castes are more superior than the lower castes.  The lower castes are less human than the upper castes. Violations of these principles would result in severe punishment.  The resulting caste system is more than just a rank.  It creates a state of mind that affects all in the culture.

I believe there is an American Caste System that is alive and well in the USA.  While it is no longer codified into law and I believe we have made major improvements toward racial and ethic equality, it is still a part of American culture. Like the air around us, we may not realize it but it is there as an unconscious bias in our culture.  We need to be aware of this unconscious bias and fight against it.  Today being racist is a bad thing, but less than 100 years ago skin color was a defining factor and racism was the norm.  African-Americans were considered to be the lowest caste and their status was cruelly enforced in many ways.  

One extreme way of enforcing compliance through terror was by lynching, which was usually by hanging.  Many times it was not a secretive event.  Many times it would be publicized and there would be crowds and a photographer who sold pictures and postcards of the event.  People would buy souvenirs and mail off the postcards.  Lynchings were events that terrified the African-Americans and comforted the Whites in their superior status in society.  More common was the beatings that were inflicted on the lower caste.

According to a 2017 study, 59% of poor people depicted in the news are African-American when they make up only 27% of the poor people in America.  (Only 22% of African-Americans are poor.)  66% of poor people are White and yet the White poor were depicted in the news only 17% of the time. African-Americans represent 37% of criminals shown in the news, but consist of 26% of those arrested.   The FBI crime reports show Whites make up 77% of crime suspects and yet the news media portray Whites as criminals only 28% of the time. Ask yourself, why the disproportionate coverage of African-Americans in poverty and crime.  Could it be an unconscious bias (or a conscious bias) that is supporting the American Caste System?  I believe this is an effect of the caste system, and it is still alive and well today, even if we do not realize it.

The caste system was not just Whites and African-Americans. There were subcategories or classes.  If you were from Northwestern Europe (English, Dutch, German, Scandinavian, etc.) with the exception of the Irish then you were in a higher class than those Irish and those from Southern Europe or Eastern Europe. If you were from outside of Europe, then you were in a lower class than the Europeans. There were also the economic classes where you were of a higher class if you were richer.  But the big difference is that the discrimination was codified for the African-Americans (and in many cases for other non-whites too).  The African-Americans were the lowest level of the American Caste System with Native Americans possibly there too. These caste distinctions still exist today though sometimes “quotas” reverse the discrimination in hiring.

I have a relative who is African-American.  He dresses up to go shopping.  Why?  He wants to avoid being mistakenly arrested.  He has been followed several times through a store by store employees.  He will lead them to a remote part of the store and then turn and tell them they do not need to be following him. He knows what is happening because he was at one time in charge of an anti-shoplifting effort at a store.  He also does not run at night.  He does things that a White person would not consider necessary to do to make certain those around him are not mistakenly concerned.  I believe this fear is a remnant of caste behavior.  Unfortunately there are still good reasons for his behavior, because Whites have a tendency to judge the actions of African-Americans more harshly.  Many Whites expect the worst from an African-American.  Again this is caste behavior by the Whites.  Would you rather meet a big muscular Black person in an alley or a big muscular White person in the alley? I admit I would be less afraid of the White person.  That is an unconscious bias of this caste system that I need to fight against. 

We need to recognize that there is a caste system in place and it will take a lot of effort and time to remove it from the American consciousness.  But to dig deeper into the problem, we find that we are selfish sinful people.  That is the real problem, and that means hierarchical discrimination is worldwide and not just in America and India.  America and India have in the past been more extreme in their discrimination.  

As a Christian, I need to be aware of the caste system, recognize it, and fight against it by giving everyone the love, respect and dignity they deserve as a human being regardless of their skin color.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  We are not there yet. People are still being judged by their skin color. Unfortunately, it still matters in American society.

I was inspired to write this post by the book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent” by Isabel Wilkerson

PS My thoughts that follow do not apply to caste systems directly but to the poor.  What makes it hard for them to climb the economic ladder? The lack of available cash or inherited wealth can keep a poor person from college or starting their own business.  When you are living from paycheck to paycheck with no funds for anything extra, it becomes hard to improve your life. (Yes, there are some grants and loans available to those who qualify and are able to navigate the requirements.)  My parents paid for my room and board at college.  My grandmother gave me some cash to help me buy a car.  When my parents died, I received some funds that made me feel like I was finally going to have enough money to be able to retire.   Those little gifts helped me.  A poor person does not have access to those funds and opportunities. A rich person has access to a lot more possibilities with all the extra funds that are available to them.  What more can we do for the poor to give them more opportunities?

Adolescent Gender-Affirming Care

Right now you can make comments on the “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” proposed rule by the Education Department until 09/12/2022. (There is not much time left to comment.)  It sounds not so bad from the title until you realize that “Sex” includes the LGBTQ+ protections with an expanded definition of harassment. For parents, it may not be possible for them to take part in their child’s transgender decisions if they disapprove of the child’s chosen gender identity.  My comment addresses the dangers of “gender-affirming care” and I now realize does not directly address the issues of discrimination in Title IX, but I was rushed to post it before the deadline and to let you have the opportunity to post too. Here is my comment.

Docket ID: ED-2021-OCR-0166

I am concerned with these Title IX rule revisions.  I have many concerns about the rule revisions but my biggest concern is transgender adolescents getting gender-affirming medical care, that is using puberty blockers and then cross-sex hormones and finally surgery. It is dangerous and does not address their psychological issues that often accompany their desire to change gender.  

The FDA has recently added a warning to the “puberty blockers”, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, which may cause brain swelling and vision loss in some children.  Sweden and Finland have reversed course and now ban the puberty blockers and hormone treatment in almost all cases of youth transgenderism.  Why?  They say the evidence is lacking and as a result of their study they now assert that the risks of hormonal treatment outweigh the benefits for most transgender youth. Their first treatment now is to deal with the psychological issues that these youth are facing.  There tend to be other issues besides gender dysphoria (transgenderism).  And in the vast majority of cases adolescent gender dysphoria resolves itself during puberty without any medical treatment.  We should follow the example of Sweden and Finland and not go down the hormone treatment route. These treatments can cause irreversible damage to the youth, including permanent sterilization.   Parents need to and must play a role in this too, because in most cases they know their child better than most, so do not allow schools to hide the treatment from the parents. 

I believe these rules will create more problems than they solve.  This can be seen in the UK where they shut down the largest gender-affirming care facility in the country and have removed gender-affirming care from the “affirmative care” model. And they are now facing lawsuits from 1000 families.  Sweden, Finland, and the UK all have reconsidered gender-affirming medical care for adolescents.  America should not make the same mistake and should not allow gender-affirming medical care for adolescents.  The science is not there.  The risks of the treatment outweigh the benefits.

That is my comment to the Federal Register. You can make a comment too before 09/12/2022.  Some more information is available.  (Be sure to include ‘Docket ID: ED-2021-OCR-0166’.)

Puberty is a time of big change.  It is not only a time of physical change but it is also a time where the youth becomes more independent.  I once heard that the teenage years are like “having a car with the brakes on backorder”.  Looking back at my life, puberty was a time of uncertainty.  Parental involvement is needed to provide stability for a teenager. The teenager should not be making life changing irreversible decisions about one’s gender.

If you are thinking that the idea of choosing your gender is crazy, you are not alone but this is where the emerging culture has taken us. Biologically we are binary, male and female, and yet the idea that you can look inside yourself and find the real sexual you is popular.  Reality is in love God made you.  He did not make any mistakes in choosing your sex.  Because of this broken world and our sinful nature, you may feel out of place but know that God has your best interests at heart.  You are loved and he is there for you.  Let Jesus be your Lord and Savior. Turn to him and let him lead.

The Wings of Politics

American Flag Photo by Lisa Setrini-Espinosa

On American Independence Day, I am going to speculate on our two parties and their wings.  Note most of these thoughts are purely my opinions based on what I have observed.  I may be wrong, but hear me out. The Republican Party has its right wing, the far right,  and the Democratic Party has its left wing, the far left.  I believe those two wings drive much of the politics today and the change in politics today.  I believe much of the division in our country comes from the two wings affecting the politics of each party.  The Republicans seem to be more conservative than before and the Democrats seem to be more liberal or progressive than before.  As I write this, voting for the Colorado primaries has just happened, and during the run up to the primaries, I saw Republicans touting who was more conservative, and at the same time Democrats touting who was more progressive.  According to politics today, it is good to be a more strident conservative or a more progressive liberal.  And I believe this drift to the extremes is dividing the country.

There are two interesting surveys that have taken the political pulse of America. The Pew Research Center’s Political Topology Poll and “The Hidden Tribes of America” Poll.  The Pew poll divides up America into 9 groups and the Tribes poll divides America into 7 groups.  Looking at the wings, the Pew poll has Progressive Left with 6% of Americans, and the Faith and Flag Conservatives at 10%.  The wings for the Tribes poll are the Progressive Activists with 8% of Americans and Devoted Conservatives at 6%.  You can see some variation in the numbers depending on the survey, but the point is the percentages are small and yet I believe they have a large influence on where the country is headed (depending on who is in office).

And from a past post, you know that I am an Independent.  Neither party shares the values I have well enough for me to set my party affiliation.  As an Independent, I want valid information on the candidates.  I want to see TV ads where the candidate shares what they stand for.  Instead I see TV ads and mailings sharing how extreme their opponents are, and sadly most of the time the TV ads and mailings are sharing at best half truths.  I have voted against candidates because of continuous single issue attacks against their opponents.  I wonder if candidates are afraid to share the truth, because of these political wings.  They are forced to take extreme positions in the primaries and then forced to be more moderate in their positions for the general election.  So where do they really stand?  Many times, it is hard to tell, because they want to appeal to the general public and at the same time keep the political wing of their party happy. That is what I think is happening.

Today it seems that the parties are only concerned with appealing to their members, especially to the political wings.  They want to get their members out to vote and not the other party members. Their goal seems to be getting their candidates elected or reelected at all costs.  In Colorado, before the primaries, Democrats spent millions of dollars on TV ads saying this Republican primary candidate was “Too Conservative for Colorado”.  Until now, I had never seen the opposing party interfering in the other party’s primary. Political commentators agreed that the Democratic Party was thinking that Republicans would vote for the more conservative candidate and thus make it easier for Democratic candidates to win.  The funny thing is those more conservative candidates were also given the first spot on the primary ballot set by the Colorado Republican convention.  With primary results now in, it appears that the TV ads worked better than expected.  Those more conservative candidates did not win the primary.  If the political commentators were right, it backfired for the Democratic Party.  I think what happened is that in Colorado the independents had a chance to vote in one or the other party’s primaries and since there were few contests in the Democratic Primary more independents voted in the Republican Primary.  This meant the more conservative candidates did not win, even though both parties wanted them to win.  I also think that the right wing of the Republican party dominated the convention and put out candidates that were more conservative than the average rank and file Republican in Colorado. That also made a difference in the results.  Note I think those TV ads were pure politics of the worst kind.  Let the candidates win on their merits.

Why do these political wings have such a large influence? I think there are several reasons. One reason is that these wings appeal to the sense that one needs to have a consistent stand for the values of the party and to take those values to the next level.  Another reason is a sense of loyalty to those in the party which causes a positive spin to be put on those who extend the values into something that is not so positive.  You support those in the party even if you disagree. And a third reason is the effect of social media.  Social media plays a role because social media will put out in front the extreme statements and downplay the more reasonable and factual statements because they will allow more ads to be viewed.  This means you see the extreme viewpoints and not as much the more reasonable statements. So you may start wondering if the extreme is true since it seems like everyone on social media is saying that.  And you never hear the other side because social media has decided which group you belong to inorder to keep you engaged and seeing ads.  I believe these things have divided the country.

Consider how you have been influenced by the right and left wings of America’s parties.  One check is to ask, do you see the radical left wing as including most all Democrats, or the radical right wing as including most all Republicans?  If so, you have been influenced by the Republican right wing or the Democratic left wing. By my figuring the left and right wings of American politics are not that large and should not have as large of an influence as the wings do have.  Do not give the wings undue influence.  We are not enemies of each other.  We are all Americans that need to work together to help make a better America for all.  We can do it.  Let us try to avoid being divisive.

Let me give an example.  Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in America.  In Colorado, you can get an abortion at any point in a pregnancy.  Over the years, several attempts to limit abortion have failed.  Perhaps those who are pro-life could work with those who are pro-choice at making abortion rare.  (The national platform for Democratic Party until recently was that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. Unfortunately the party has dropped the rare part. I believe this was due to the influence of that left wing of the party.)  I believe one way to help make abortion rare is to deal with the poverty of those seeking abortions. Three quarters of the women getting an abortion are poor.  Financial concerns must be a major factor in abortions, so dealing with their poverty and creating financial security for them could help reduce abortions.  This example is one of many ways where we can work together to make a better America for all.


Das Bean Photo by Mark Publava

When people say “I am a Christian”, what do they really mean?  I was looking at a 2021 survey of Millennials (which includes Gen Z adults), and found some very interesting statistics on Millennials, who say they are Christian, view God.  The percentages were surprising.   It confirms I live in a Christian bubble and I have not realized how much the world has changed, even though I have been interested in declining church attendance among the younger generations for over 20 years. 40% of Millennials do not know if God exists, or do not believe that God exists, or do not care whether God exists. 40% have effectively written off God.  57% of Millennials say they are Christian.  Of those 57%, only 46% agree that God is “all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect, just creator of the universe, who rules the universe today”.  I would have hoped that statement would have had 100% agreement for those who say they are “Christian”.

So if only 46% Millennial “Christians” give the Christian answer of who God is, what do the other Millennial “Christians” think God is?  6% “don’t know”.  1% say “there is no such thing as God”, and 22% agree with the statement that “a higher power may exist; nobody knows for certain”.  That is 29% of Millennial “Christians” that doubt the existence of God.  They are part of that 40%.  To continue, there are 4% who say “Everyone is god”; 15% who have a new age take saying “God refers to the total realization of personal, human potential or a state of higher consciousness that a person may reach”; and 7% who agree that “there are many gods, each with different purposes and authority”.  Those responses are from all who claim to be Christian.  The word “Christian” does not have the traditional biblical meaning for many people. (An interesting aside is that 31% of “Non-Christian” Millennials gave the correct Christian answer from the choices to who God is.)  I believe that for many Americans saying that one is a “Christian” is the same as saying “I am a good person”. 

And I believe this is also true for other generations.  It is just more pronounced for the younger generations as America has become more and more a post-Christian nation.  This is made clear in the percentage of people with a biblical worldview.  Only 4% of Millennials have a biblical worldview.  It is 6% for Gen X, 8% for Boomers, and 9% for Builders.  There are not all that many with a biblical worldview, but the decline is also clearly seen.  So what is the worldview that these generations have?  The dominant worldview for each generation is the same (from 83% to 89%). It is Syncretism.  Syncretism is the amalgamation (or patchwork) of different religions or worldviews.  In this case, it is the worldview where you pick and choose what you want to believe in.  For the Millennials and Gen X’ers, they tend to pick their concepts from the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism worldview.  For the Boomers and the Builders, they tend to pick from the Biblical Theism worldview. The Create-Your-Own worldview has always been popular.  The difference is as the Christian influence wanes through the generations, the younger ones are less likely to pick and choose from Biblical Theism.  Still the dominant worldview for each generation is not a biblical worldview. 

The end result for Millennials is that most of them are searching for purpose in their life, and a majority of them often have bouts of depression and anxiety.  They want to belong, so many of them have connected with what I call the latest social contagion, that is they identify with or as LGBTQ. The table below lays out the percentages.  They are hurting.  They want a good life, but today’s cultural influences and forces have left them lacking.  Their patchwork worldview does not handle reality the way it should.  It is sad that 40% of them have effectively written off the existence of God and the Christian Faith, because I have a full and abundant life because of Jesus. I think a lot of their problems would be solved if they would turn and embrace God.

Thinking about your commitments, would you describe yourself as …Percentage of those who answer “Yes”
Searching for purpose in your life75%
Believing all religious faiths are of equal value74%
An American patriot55%
Often feel anxious, depressed or unsafe54%
Deeply committed to practicing your faith52%
Prefer socialism to capitalism48%
LGBTQ30% but39% for Gen Z only

Note a Gallup poll that was taken at roughly the same time put LGBTQ Millennials at 9% and LGBTQ Gen Z’ers at 16%.  I believe the difference may be in the way this survey worded the question.  This survey question may show more of the support for LGBTQ cause as opposed to their own sexual preference. It may be some of them are identifying with LGBTQ cause but not identifying as a LGBTQ person.  Whatever the case is, both surveys show a large uptick in LGBTQ identification among the younger generations. I believe it is about identity.  They want to know who they are and gender identity is the big issue in today’s culture, so they identify with LGBTQ.  If they don’t effectively write off God (like 40% have done), they can find their identity as forgiven and loved children of God.  That identity has been a solid rock for me.

My takeaway from this post is that we live in a very different world from 50 years ago.  We, older Christians, need to recognize the change and not assume nothing has changed.  The world has changed significantly and Christians need to realize that the world they live in today is in many ways more like the world first century Christians lived in than the world from 50 years ago.  We need to get out of our Christian bubble and reach out to those hurting because of a false worldview.  And we need to support the real Christian Millennials.  It is rough out there for them in this very post-Christian world.

The Global Supply Chain

Wier Gear Photo by Nic Kilby

We take so much for granted.  I am again surprised to find out how much our economy is dependent on materials or manufacturing halfway around the world.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing more supply chain problems.  Ukraine supplies about 50% of the world’s neon gas (and about 40% of the world’s krypton gas).  Neon gas is used in lasers for making computer chips. The two neon producing Ukrainian companies have halted neon production. Ukraine is also a significant exporter of wheat.  We live in an interconnected and global economy.

The global supply chain has been a wonderful blessing in many ways.  Take a look at all the fresh produce on our grocery shelves. I think of the bananas we have year round.  They are not local and usually grown outside of America. And the berries we can get anytime of the year.  Much of the produce in winter was grown thousands of miles away.  Some produce is local or from storage, but a lot of produce is shipped to us from far away.  The global supply chain has allowed us to enjoy some of these luxuries.  Our companies these days have greatly benefited from the global supply chain, and it has allowed our companies to become more efficient, but it also has created some vulnerabilities.

We were made acutely aware of these vulnerabilities during the covid pandemic and it showed how fragile the supply chain really is. To illustrate, I remember learning that when I ordered a new laptop, the order was sent to China and parts from various suppliers around the world were assembled according to my specifications before being shipped to me.  And in days I had the laptop.  It was a smooth fast process that was quite efficient. This is known as just-in-time or lean manufacturing. However, there were signs of supply chain fragility.  I remember in 2011 the floods in Thailand caused hard drive production to drop 28%.  That affected the delivery and price of laptops.

Today, the computer chip industry is still trying to get back to operating at full capacity, and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine will slow the recovery of the computer chip industry.  The supply chain, though quick and efficient, is fragile.  All that is needed is for one supplier or service provider to have problems and the rest of the supply chain is in trouble. The covid pandemic caused multiple failures to the supply chain and that ground everything to a halt.  I do not think it will be that severe in this case but there will be an effect on computer chip production.

Also with a global economy, prices tend to get set globally.  This is especially true of crude oil. The price of gas here depends on the global oil price, and this is why prices here have been soaring due to fears of a Russian oil shortage even though America does not import much Russian oil.  And I believe we have many other products whose price is based on the global market.  We live in a global economy.  Our economy depends on events that happen around the world. Some products are more affected by the global events than others, but one should expect supply chain disruptions to occur now and then.  

Companies need to be resilient and flexible to manage these disruptions. Toyota, after Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, put together a huge database of suppliers, suppliers’ suppliers and suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers. They asked themselves what were the strategic items they needed to stockpile. They were trying to become more resilient.  I believe short term profit taking is what has made the global supply chain so fragile. There needs to be some longer term thinking to deal with these disruptions, so that there is a more robust and resilient response.

How flexible and resilient are you? How about the companies you depend on?

Fear and Anxiety

Fear and anxiety seem to be a big part of today’s society. Questions abound!  What is happening to society?  Will I die from Covid-19? Will the Democrats usher in communism?  Will the Republicans put into place a theocracy?  Will the other party take away my freedoms?  Will I be a victim of a crime?  Will I be killed because of the color of my skin? Will I be able to pay my rent?  Will global warming spell the end of the human race? And there are many more concerns.

There is an element of truth in most of these concerns.  What makes for an effective lie is to have a kernel of truth and then blow it out of proportion by adding falsehoods to it.  That leads to anxiety and irrational fears.  Today there are many people who are promoting fear.  They use fear to promote their agenda, to sell advertisements, to sell products, and/or to dehumanize others.  The end result is stress because we become anxious about things that may or may not happen.

Fear is not always a bad thing.  You do not step in front of a speeding car.  You do not run off a 200 foot cliff.  Fear of getting hurt should prevent you from these stupid acts.   You demonstrate fear and respect for the speeding car and for the 200 foot cliff.  However, it is irrational to not be able to walk up to an edge of a cliff.  Also it is irrational not to be able to cross any street because of the fear of getting hit.  Both of these actions can be done in a safe manner.

In the same way, it is good to fear God and to give him the respect, awe, and reverence he deserves.  When Isaiah found himself in the presence of God, he cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips…”.  And that he was and because of his sin he was right to fear God. And yet forgiveness was spoken to him in the words, “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for”.  The same is true of us.  We are lost in our sin, and yet God desires to forgive us and bring us back to him.  We turn to him as forgiven children of God and are told not to be afraid.  

God is our foundation, our rock, in this frightening world we live in.  We need not fear and be anxious about the happenings in the world.  God is at work in the world, redeeming it and there will be a day when Jesus will come back and make all things right.  Though we can go through some tough times, when we may wonder where God is, know that God works all things for good for those who love him.  We need not be afraid and anxious even when things look bleak.  Trust God and he will come through in his time and at the end of time.  As children of God, we cannot lose. We will win in the end.

I have experienced some tough times, and God has used those tough times for my good.  23 years ago, I fell deathly ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  I spent 6 weeks in the hospital (2 weeks in the ICU) and 7 weeks recovering in a nursing home and many more months getting back to near normal.  All this happened while I was engaged to Gail. This was a tough time for Gail and I.  The strange thing was through the illness, I grew closer to God by recognizing more of his goodness and grace.  Because of my illness, Gail got time off from teaching in Oregon to come and see me in Colorado, albeit in a hospital bed.  And going through that struggle, our love for each other was strengthened, so that our marriage started strong.  Though I would not recommend it to anyone, God used my illness for my good as well as the good of our marriage.  There was no reason to be afraid or anxious, because God was in control and he was working things out for our good.

So whether it is Covid-19 or political divisiveness or something else, trust that God has this and God will work it out in his way and his time. You need not fear. This hope and trust is not some sort of pollyanna positivity, and it is not wishful thinking.  You need to be realistic and realize that the world is broken and bad things happen.  And yet God is there for you, to walk alongside you, and to give you hope.  He is there with you through the tough times though you may not understand why things are so bad. Just know that there is no need to be anxious, because God is working things out in his way and in his time for your good. Our calling is to trust God, and to follow and serve him as we live out our lives for him. Do that, and do not worry about the rest.  God has it.

Respect Life

Two Columbine Flowers

Our two cars have special license plates that say “Respect Life” and have a Columbine flower on the plate.  The special license plates came into being after the Columbine High School shooting happened in 1999.  Two students came into the school and murdered 12 students and one teacher.  Then they killed themselves.  There was no respect for life.

Today many of us do not respect human life like we should.  Human life is sacred.  We all are made in the image of God, so we should treat all people with dignity.  Every person is loved by God.  And yet today many times we treat people as less than human, and in some cases we kill them.  We make enemies out of those who disagree with us, and those we perceive to cause a major “negative” change in our lives. We make them into someone less than human.  We rationalize our reasons to disrespect people and make them less than human, but it does not make it right.  Human life is precious, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

I believe that “It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.”  Life is precious and I believe that abortion is an intentional act that kills a unique, distinct, and innocent human being.  This human being has their own DNA.  So it does not matter whether you are a small fertilized egg, an unborn baby, a child, a teen, an adult, or an old person.  You are a unique human being.  The size or level of development does not change the person.  The environment does not matter.  Whether the human being is in the womb or not.  Whether the person can breathe on their own or not.  The person, whether unborn or a 90 year old on oxygen, is still a person.  Dependency does not matter.  In the womb, the unborn child is dependent on the mother.  A new born child is still very dependent on the mother.  And an aging person may become very dependent on others.  Whether unborn or aged, each person deserves the respect and dignity of the rest of us.

The abortion debate is more complicated than simply the killing of the unborn.  We must not leave the mother out of the abortion debate.  She too deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  When 75% of the women getting an abortion are poor, it looks like to me that financial concerns are a major factor in abortions.  As I see it, tackling poverty will significantly help lower the number of abortions. How can we support the pregnant mother?  How can we support mothers in general?  Can we remove their financial worries?  Can we make adoption a more viable option for them? 

Fathers are important too.  They also deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  Many times the mother is on her own. Children who have both parents do better. How can we bring the father back into the family and give him a place in caring for the child?  How can we build up the family?  The abortion debate is a complicated issue that requires that the needs of the father, mother, and the unborn child be taken into account.

Around the country there are many pregnancy centers that can help a mother deal with a pregnancy in a respectful and loving manner. A good one in the Loveland/Longmont area is Life Choices.

Fire, Weather, and Climate

The recent firestorm that hit Colorado on December 30 was a wakeup call.  The Marshall Fire shows a new reality of a warm dry Colorado.  Right after the fire, we had our first significant snowfall.  It was about 2-3 months late.  The last 6 months have been very dry and very warm.  In fact they were one of the driest and by far warmest 6 months (July through December) on record for the Front Range.  The very strong winds with the 100+ mph gusts on rare occasions do happen in the Boulder area, but combined with the very dry conditions it created the ideal conditions for the firestorm that destroyed 1084 homes and damaged another 149 homes.

Drought is not uncommon to Colorado, however in the last 20+ years, we have been in drought most of the time.  It seems to be becoming a new normal. And the summers have become increasingly warmer, or should I say just plain hot.  When Gail married me and moved to Colorado, I told her that we did not need air conditioning, because the nights cool off and there are not all that many hot days.  That was 22 years ago and a few years later we had air conditioning. I have been in Colorado for 35 years and it is getting hotter, especially in the last two decades.

A warmer climate means there is more energy in the system, and more energy available for these extreme events.  The warming climate has raised the energy level so the heat dome over the Pacific Northwest this summer, and the very dry conditions with the wind storm were made worse by the warming climate.   Some experts say “climate change is a threat multiplier”.  I am not certain it is as simple as that, but weather events can be made more severe due to the warming climate.  In Colorado, we used to talk about the fire season.  It would start in the spring and end in the fall.  But for many years now the talk has changed. People now say it is always fire season in Colorado.

The Marshall Fire we had here in Colorado was similar to the Camp Fire in California that burned Paradise, CA to the ground.  Both were fueled by strong winds and very dry vegetation.  Both grew to a large size, engulfing towns in a matter of hours.  Amazingly, only two people will have lost their lives due to the Marshall Fire. That is truly amazing considering how fast the fire moved.

To give you a flavor of how fast the fire moved, a friend of a friend of mine, who lost his house in the fire, sent out an email describing his experience.  The fire started at about 11:00am about 2.85 miles away from his house. At his house he noticed the wind and the increasing smoke.  He started packing (around 11:45?) and left his house at 12:10 with his family.  By that time the smoke was so thick that he could barely see past the front of his car.  The evacuation order came to his phone at 12:15. And it was not easy driving in the very strong wind.  At 12:38 his home weather station stopped reporting to the website meaning that his house was on fire and likely had been for awhile.  They got out just in time.  In the rush they forgot many things, including a packed bag, but they made it out and were safe.

It makes me wonder about how safe my house is.  I live about a few blocks from farm land to the north and about half a mile to a mile from the western edge of Loveland and the foothills.  (Strong winds usually come from the west.)  I believe I am at or near that wildland urban interface.   There is a Wildfire Risk Assessment Public Viewer, and just west of my place the fire risk is low (but not the lowest rating) for under high to extreme fire danger conditions.  So that is good, though about three miles to the NNW of my place the risk rises to moderate. That brings up a bunch of questions.  What steps should I take to better protect my place?  Should I have a list of things to pack if needed?  Would I be ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice?  What preparations would be prudent?  These questions I have never considered until now.

Events like this make me pause and realize how short and fragile life is.  While writing this post I read this from the prophet Joel, concerning a disaster of a plague of locusts:

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”  Return to the Lord your God,  for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  (Joel 2:12-13)

It is always a good time to stop, evaluate our lives, and return to the Lord God, but disasters can be a clarion call for us to repent and return to God.  I am ready.  I am not perfect.  I need to return and receive God’s love and forgiveness.

COVID Thoughts

Coronavirus (Fusion Medical)

What is next with the COVID-19 story? Most of the world is still unvaccinated, but progress is being made. 41% of the world has received at least one dose, but only 1.9% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. It is in unvaccinated regions where the variants to the virus develop, whether it be Tanzania, Columbia, or Northern Idaho.  Will a virus that is immune to the vaccines and deliver a deadly dose develop?  It is possible.  That is why, I believe getting the vaccine to everyone as quickly as possible is very important.  We need to stop this virus before it mutates into something worse. (The delta variant is already worse than the original virus.  What is next?)

Right now the COVID’s fourth wave has hit America hard, but things are different for this wave because many of us are vaccinated and that is making a difference. However the difference is not big enough because we do not have enough vaccinated people for herd immunity.  The risk is lower for me since I have been vaccinated.  The people I hang around with are vaccinated too, but we still need to be careful not to spread it.  Unfortunately, the unvaccinated are catching the COVID virus and hospitals are filling up.  What does America need to do?  Is mask wearing needed?  Is a lockdown needed?  Mandatory vaccinations? Right now it is mostly up to the individual, to companies, or to the local governments.  I do not have the answers.

People have different comfort levels.  Some feel the need to wear face masks and others don’t. (And there are a few, mostly elderly, where a face mask makes it more difficult for them to breathe.)  I am comfortable without a mask, but I respect those who differ and I am willing to wear a mask if it makes the individual comfortable.  I am also willing to wear masks if the store or the local government requires it.  It is a small price to pay to keep the peace and maintain relationships.  And I believe that masks do make a difference.  There are many studies that show face masks do help reduce the risk of infection.

There are conspiracy theories out there that are convincing people that the vaccines are bad for them. Yes, I consider these stories to be conspiracy theories.  The evidence is missing, and the story requires large numbers of knowledgeable people to be lying. I cannot believe that a falsehood requiring so many knowledgeable people to lie can continue without being fully exposed.  Here is an article debunking many of the myths.  I ask you to look around and ask yourself, “How many people who I know have had lasting ill effects from the vaccine?”  For me it is zero.  The vaccine does not harm people. It is a very rare case when it causes problems.  

The vaccine is effective at protecting you from the virus. If you are vaccinated there is a one in 5,000 chance per day of becoming infected, and it may actually be a one in 10,000 chance per day.  Unvaccinated people are about five times more likely to become infected with the delta variant of the COVID virus than vaccinated people.  They are now ten times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die of COVID than those vaccinated.  The vaccine works. One alternative treatment touted by conspiracy theories is a potential antiviral drug, ivermectin.  Current results from the studies show that ivermectin is not effective against COVID-19. (There are some more studies in progress.)  Those considering ivermectin should be very careful, because ivermectin is dangerous to take, especially in large doses.

Should we be getting  a third shot, a “booster shot”, when many in the rest of the world do not have their first shot?  The head of the World Health Organization says, we should wait, and there appears to be a question of whether the third dose is really needed.  The rich countries have promised 1 billion doses to the poor countries, but only 15% of the promised amount has been delivered.  Should we focus on helping poor countries get vaccinated? It would help prevent new strains of the virus from developing. Or should we first protect America’s vulnerable with a third shot? I am not certain if it is an “either/or” question.  I think both can happen.  I believe that we need to get the world vaccinated, the faster the better.  The vaccines need to get to poor countries quickly, but only if the logistics are in place to get the people vaccinated.  Logistics can be a problem.  And I think third shots can happen too, but they should be the extra doses that are not going to be used by those getting their first and second doses.

With all that is happening, as Christians, we can be rest assured that our God is good and loving and in control.  We need not fear.  In the end, heaven awaits, where everything will be made right for us.